Jun 222011

By Fred Wilkinson, with thanks to Tripping Up Trump.

Due to “unprecedented demand”, Aberdeen’s Belmont Picturehouse have shaken up their schedule in order to host a further 3 screenings of Antony Baxter’s controversial documentary film You’ve Been Trumped.
Donald Trump has publicly expressed that Anthony Baxter is a “fraud”, and that the film is “boring”, but that does not appear to resonate with those who have actually viewed the film.

Mr Trump it would appear, despite currently on a visit to the North-east to examine the “worlds greatest golf course”, will not be available to attend the additional screenings.

However,  Mr Trump has been invited to a special US preview of the film 7 July in New York.

“If Mr Trump can’t stay in Aberdeen then we are happy to invite him to the screening in New York,” said Director Anthony Baxter.

According to Emily Richardson, Film Programmer for Picturehouse Cinemas:

“Following the unprecedented demand for tickets for the sell out Green Carpet Premiere and the follow up screening, The Belmont is delighted to be holding three further screenings of You’ve Been Trumped. We have been delighted with the amazing response to this very topical film and are very pleased to have been able to bring the film to the Aberdeen audience,”

The additional screenings will be held:-

Friday 24 June at 6.30pm
Saturday 25 June at 1.45pm
Sunday 26 June at 6.30pm

For more info, see: youvebeentrumped.com

Other Links …..

Trump film wins festival prize.

Voice’s ‘poetry mannie’ Bob Smith reviews YBT( See ‘The cafe 2’ column. )

Belmont_Picturehouse – Youve_Been Trumped

Aberdeen Voice Article – March 2011

Jun 032011

With thanks to Tripping Up Trump.

In March 2009 the Trump Organisation asked Aberdeenshire Council to use Compulsory Purchase Orders to remove local residents from their homes.

Earlier this year, after almost two years of this threat, the Trump Organisation announced that they would no longer seek the use of these powers, while continuing to deny that they had made the original request.

To celebrate the withdrawal of the Compulsory Purchase threat to the homeowners at Menie, Tripping Up Trump have decided to hold a second March of Menie on Sunday the 5th of June 2011.

Similar to the first, very successful, March that took place in October of 2010, it will involve people gathering at the Balmedie Country Park Visitor Centre at 12 noon and walking through the dunes to The Bunker (a site of multiple ownership) where there will be a number of attractions provided for people of all ages.

Information will be available to educate those who are not impressed with the propaganda and misinformation put out by the Trump Organisation.

For those of you unfamiliar with the forthcoming movie You’ve Been Trumped, Here is the trailer once again.

The first screening of You’ve Been Trumped will take place at the Belmont Cinema in Aberdeen at 8.30pm on Friday 17 June.
More Info … https://www.facebook.com/pages/Youve-Been-Trumped/187472834621346

Tripping Up Trump is a campaigning organisation based in the North-East of Scotland, formed to fight the environmental destruction being carried out by the Trump Organisation and support the Menie residents whose homes and land have been threatened with Compulsory Purchase and continue to be intimidated and bullied by the Trump Organisation.

Writer and researcher, Andy Wightman, has recently compiled a report on Trump’s Ego Trip at Menie. Andy will be one of the speakers .

Some fascinating insights to be shared for sure.

Mar 292011

By Cllr. Martin Ford, Aberdeenshire Council.

The reality of the cuts being forced on Scottish councils was all too apparent at Aberdeenshire Council last Thursday (24 March).  Several papers at the Education, Learning and Leisure Committee dealt  with proposed policy changes intended to give effect to budget cuts voted through the Council in November and February.

On the agenda were cuts to secondary teacher numbers, the number of depute heads in some academies, the provision of fruit for primary pupils, and the extension of charging for musical instrument tuition. The Democratic Independent group of councillors, of which I am a member, opposed these cuts at the full council meeting in November 2010 when the Council voted for budget reductions totaling almost £27 million in 2011/12.

See. https://aberdeenvoice.com/?p=3511

The specific proposals at the Education, Learning and Leisure Committee covered only a small proportion of the wide-ranging cuts Aberdeenshire is making in education. The proposals on secondary school staffing will impact directly on classes, including possibly resulting in larger class sizes for S1 and S2 Mathematics and English, and also on school management – at a time of change in the curriculum.

The proposals for additional charging for musical instrument tuition may result in some pupils being prevented from learning for economic reasons. The proposal to end the provision of free fruit to P1 and P2 children three days a week was part of proposals for reducing spending on school catering.

Obviously, none of these service reductions is desirable, and no-one at the Committee pretended they were.

Take the fruit provision for example.

We know we have a considerable problem of poor diet, such as too much fat and salt, and associated health issues such as obesity. So learning about food and healthy eating is an important part of education. Getting young children accustomed to healthy food is crucial as part of setting a pattern for later life.

Given the seriousness of the problem in Scotland, addressing this issue has to be a priority.  Not only does the individual benefit, but there are potentially  significant savings to the public sector, particularly the NHS, from  improvements to people’s diet. We should not therefore be reducing efforts to get young children into good eating habits.

What makes me angry is that these cuts are unnecessary.

It is still wasting money on preparatory work for the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route, a project that is now simply unaffordable

Firstly, the Council should not have been put in the position it has been by the Scottish Government, having both its grant cut and a Council Tax freeze imposed on it.  Effectively, allowing for inflation, the Council Tax is being cut year after year. That is not financially sustainable and public services are suffering as a result.

Had the Council been allowed to decide on the level of Council Tax next year, some of the cuts to services could have been avoided. Aberdeenshire’s Band D Council Tax is £1141. A one penny in the pound increase, £11.41 per year or 22 pence per week, would bring in around £1.2 million to help pay for public services.

All the cuts included on the Education, Learning and Leisure Committee’s agenda last Thursday and more could have been avoided had the Council been allowed to increase the Council Tax by just a penny in the pound.

Secondly, the Council could have chosen different priorities for spending. It is still wasting money on preparatory work for the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route, a project that is now simply unaffordable. Schools should come first, not grandiose and unaffordable road schemes.

But, at last Thursday’s Education, Learning and Leisure Committee, all the proposed education cuts were accepted by the Committee.

– Martin Ford is the top candidate on the Scottish Green Party’s list of MSP candidates for the North East Scotland Region at the forthcoming Scottish Parliament election.

You’ve Been Trumped – New Documentary Goes Viral

 Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Articles, Community, Events, Featured, Information  Comments Off on You’ve Been Trumped – New Documentary Goes Viral
Mar 112011

With thanks to Martin Glegg and Helen Thomas.

You’ve Been Trumped – a new documentary investigating the social, economic and environmental impacts of the Donald Trump golf course development near Aberdeen, Scotland has gone viral – with an innovative crowd sourcing drive to finish the film in time for its world premiere at the beginning of May 2011.

The feature length film, which includes music from Jonsi, the lead singer of Sigur Ros, has been selected to premiere at ‘arguably the best showcase in the world for documentary’, according to its production team.

The filmmakers were arrested and put in prison cells by Grampian Police whilst making the film.  The Director, Anthony Baxter was also handcuffed in what the National Union of Journalists described as ‘a blatant example of police interference aimed at stopping bona fide journalists from doing their job’.

Now, to complete the documentary for cinema release, the producers are embracing crowd sourcing, which has been pioneered by some of world’s top filmmakers such as Kevin Macdonald, the director of hit films such as Touching the Void and The Last King of Scotland.  The film is aiming to raise £12,000 in 50 days through the website Indiegogo.

In its first day of crowd sourcing, You’ve Been Trumped raised almost £2,000 with donations coming in from around the world.  The filmmakers are offering ‘Perks’ to contribute to the film, such as signed DVDs by jonsi, and a guided walk along the coast to the village where Local Hero was filmed.   The story of the residents on the Menie Estate where Donald Trump is building a £750 million golf resort, has been likened to the classic 1983 film starring Burt Lancaster.

The exact location of the premiere of You’ve Been Trumped is top secret until a news launch on 23 March 2011.

Menie Masterplan Must Be Revised To Protect Residents

 Aberdeenshire, Articles, Community, Information, Opinion  Comments Off on Menie Masterplan Must Be Revised To Protect Residents
Feb 182011

By Bennachie Blether.

Residents at Menie who have spent years under threat of Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) for their homes have breathed a sigh of relief with news of a statement from Donald Trump that his organisation will not ask Aberdeenshire Council to use their powers to purchase the land.

However, since the news broke last week, significant evidence in the form of a letter to planning chiefs at the council shows that Trump International Golf Links Scotland (TIGLS) did indeed ask for CPOs to be administered.

Menie resident David Milne issued a press release which also contained the letter in question. He said:

“There is an element of relief to be gained from the recent statement from Donald Trump regarding his decision not to use Compulsory Purchase Orders in relation to his housing development here at Menie. However, the statement has been treated with scepticism by myself and many others simply because in his statement he claims never to have actually requested CPOs in the first place, this is untrue.

“The letters show quite clearly that a formal request for CPOs to be used was made on March 4, 2009 and was the result of some considerable prior discussion. Therefore until such time a formal letter withdrawing the request is made public, this application can be reinstated at any time.”

Planning permission for the £750m championship golf course, 450 room hotel, 950 holiday apartments and 500 residential homes was granted in May 2009.

In a further twist to the ongoing saga, local councillor Debra Storr has written to Aberdeenshire Council to point out that as there is no prospect of Trump acquiring the properties of the Menie families, the Masterplan, which includes these properties, is no longer valid.

According to Councillor Storr:

“The Masterplan now needs to be redone to reflect the reality that the Trump Organisation is not going to get control of the land owned by the Menie families. The Trump Organisation has made it clear that it intends to work round these properties and Aberdeenshire Council needs to see the detail of that.

“I have therefore asked the council whether they have told the Trump Organisation that a revised masterplan is required and when we may expect to see the revised plans.

the council is as guilty as Mr Trump of causing the affected residents unnecessary worry and stress over an extended period

“The Menie families are concerned that they will continue to suffer harassment by the Trump Organisation and therefore it is to everyone’s benefit if a revised Masterplan is submitted to show how the families will be able to peacefully enjoy their properties within the resort development.”

Ms Storr added:

“We have already seen the building of ‘temporary’ bunds at Hermit Point and Leyton Cottage. Therefore I do worry that Aberdeenshire’s cosy relationship with the developer will mean that the legitimate interests of the families will not be protected.”

Councillor Storr has written to both Iain Gabriel, director of Infrastructure Services, and Christine Gore, director of Corporate Services at Aberdeenshire Council asking for confirmation that the local authority has advised the Trump Organisation regarding the masterplan situation and when the revised masterplan can be expected.

An Aberdeenshire Council spokesman said:

“We are currently considering whether the approved masterplan for this development requires to be revisited.”

Commenting on the issue, Trump International executive vice president Sarah Malone gave the view:

“Debra Storr appears to be confused and is yet again attempting to create problems where there are none.”

However, fellow councillor Martin Ford backed Ms Storr’s call for new plans:

“The bid for compulsory purchase was just one of the unreasonable demands Mr Trump has made in connection with his proposed resort development. We will never know whether Aberdeenshire Council or the Scottish Government would have done Mr Trump’s bidding this time too.”

“One consequence of Mr Trump abandoning his demands for his neighbours homes is that the approved masterplan for the development is no longer implementable. It includes the land the residents’ homes are built on.

“This raised the question of whether the planning condition requiring a masterplan can now reasonably be said to have been fulfilled.

“In his statement, Mr Trump claims that he has ‘no interest in compulsory purchase’ and ‘never applied for it’. That is downright untrue.

“Mr Trump’s lawyers wrote to Aberdeenshire Council formally requesting the council to exercise its power of compulsory purchase to acquire eight plots of land on behalf of TIGLS. The eight properties were listed and included were the homes of four families.

“Aberdeenshire Council could and should have made it clear long ago that compulsory purchase was not an option it would support. To that extent, the council is as guilty as Mr Trump of causing the affected residents unnecessary worry and stress over an extended period.

“The council’s shameful failure to stand up to Mr Trump’s bullying has caused lasting damage to its reputation.”

Councillor Ford also paid tribute to the Tripping Up Trump campaign, adding:

“I want to pay tribute to the well-organised and effective campaign run in support of the Menie residents.”

“The thousands of people who actively helped the Tripping Up Trump campaign were defending important principles, and last month’s statement from Mr Trump is effectively an admission that the campaign has worked. Thank you to everyone who took part.”

Feb 112011

By Cllr Martin Ford, Aberdeenshire Council.

I said last week I did not expect Aberdeenshire Council’s budget setting meeting, which took place yesterday (10 February), to be either lengthy or out of the ordinary (see: Aberdeenshire Budget Day Looms, Aberdeen Voice 4 February 2011).

I was only half right. The meeting lasted less than two hours.

Normally, budget meetings are extremely predictable. The Council’s ruling administration proposes its budget. The opposition parties each propose an alternative package of measures.

There is a debate in which speakers from each party say why they believe what their party has put forward should be supported. There is a vote in which each party votes for its own set of proposals. The administration’s budget receives the most votes and thus becomes the Council’s budget.

Yesterday’s budget meeting was different in one key respect. The Democratic Independent group of councillors, of which I am a member, was not allowed to put forward its alternative to the administration’s budget.

As reported in previous articles, Aberdeenshire Council’s Liberal Democrat/Conservative administration, with SNP support, voted through nearly £27 million of cuts and savings at the full council meeting on 25 November.

At yesterday’s budget meeting, further savings of £1.461 million had to be approved to balance the Council’s revenue budget for 2011/12. As expected, the Liberal Democrat/Conservative administration accepted the recommendation from Council officers to close the budget gap by bringing forward planned cuts and savings from 2012/13 into 2011/12.

So, for example, the administration proposed changing the cut in spending on Community School Networks it had decided in November, increasing it from £107,000 to £137,000 in 2011/12 by bringing forward some of the cut planned for 2012/13.

Council officers advised that it was not competent to propose no cut to these staff, even though we had put forward an alternative

Amongst the accelerated cuts in education spending proposed by the administration was an increase in the cut for 2011/12 to spending on primary school classroom assistants, from £88,000 to £100,000.

In their budget proposals, the SNP councillors left unchanged the planned £88,000 cut in the 2011/12 budget for primary school classroom assistants.

This year it fell to me to formally move the Democratic Independent group’s budget proposals. We saw it as a priority to maintain spending on primary school classroom assistants and visiting specialist teachers – so we proposed making no cut to either in 2011/12. We proposed making a saving instead by cutting the budget allocated to repairing unadopted roads, as these roads are not, by definition, a Council responsibility and the budget for repairing them has mostly not been spent.

Once it became clear I was proposing no cut to primary school classroom assistants or visiting specialists, I was stopped from speaking by the provost. Council officers advised that it was not competent to propose no cut to these staff, even though we had put forward an alternative way of balancing the budget.

The Council operates a general policy that it cannot reconsider its decisions within six months, unless there is a two-thirds majority in favour of doing so. But when the administration, and then the SNP councillors, proposed increased spending cuts in 2011/12, by bringing forward cuts from 2012/13, it was ruled this did not constitute a change to a previous decision, so the two-thirds rule did not apply.

But when I proposed the opposite, not to proceed with cuts, this was deemed a change that could only be debated if a two-thirds majority agreed.

A show of hands was called by the provost. Just six councillors voted to allow us to put forward our budget proposals.

The provost ruled the Democratic Independent group budget proposals out of order.

Faced with a debate between the administration’s and the SNP’s very similar budget proposals, both of which opted for staff cuts in primary schools, there was no point in staying. None of the Democratic Independent group councillors was going to vote for either of the proposals we had to choose from. We all walked out in protest.

I have never walked out of a Council meeting before. It is not something I would normally consider and not something to do without very good reason.

I did it yesterday because the budget debate had become pointless, and because of the manifestly unfair way the meeting was being conducted. It was not that our proposals were voted down – it was that we were not even allowed to put them forward for consideration and debate. That is undemocratic and wrong.

I am appalled at the Council’s refusal to allow open debate. Apparently it is perfectly acceptable to propose further cuts in classroom assistants – but seeking to stop the cuts is not allowed.

That is completely one-sided.

The two budget proposals that were voted on by Aberdeenshire councillors yesterday both accepted the primary school staff cuts the Democratic Independent group had sought to avert.

It was, of course, the administration’s budget proposals that were approved. The cuts to classroom assistants and visiting specialist teachers – and many others – will go ahead.

Feb 042011

By Cllr Martin Ford, Aberdeenshire Council

Next Thursday (10 February), Aberdeenshire Council will formally set its revenue budget for the financial year starting in April. Despite Aberdeenshire Council facing the worst budget cuts in its history, I do not expect the budget meeting to be especially lengthy or dramatic.

This is because the bulk of the cuts the Council will make in 2011/12 were voted through by the ruling Liberal Democrat/Conservative coalition – with SNP support – at the full council meeting on 25 November.
(see: Council Tax Freeze and Many Cuts Decided, Aberdeen Voice, 26 November 2010).

The cuts the Council will decide on next Thursday will be small in comparison to the cuts already voted through. What the Council has to do is to agree some further budget reductions to balance its planned revenue expenditure with its expected income – an income that has effectively been decided for it by the Scottish Government (see: Horrific Scale Of Council Cuts Becomes Clearer, Aberdeen Voice, 19 November 2010).

The position immediately after Christmas was that the Council needed to identify further savings of over £4 million to balance its revenue budget for 2011/12 (see: Grim Reality Of Aberdeenshire Budget Cuts, Aberdeen Voice, 31 December 2010).

Since then, Council officials have reviewed some of the budget provisions made for increased expenditure arising from changes in government policy. Finance officers are now advising that only £4.01 million need be included in the budget to address these pressures, instead of the £7 million originally estimated.

The amounts Aberdeenshire Council will be paying towards the funding of Grampian Police, Grampian Fire and Rescue Service and Grampian Valuation Joint Board have also been set at less than expected – by a total of £1.13 million.

On the other hand, it has become clear some new responsibilities given to the Council by the Scottish Government need an additional budget allocation of £1.335 million.

The net result of these various developments is that Aberdeenshire’s budget gap has come down to £1.461 million. Further spending reductions totalling that amount will need to be approved on 10 February to produce a balanced revenue budget for 2011/12.

Council officers are recommending the 2011/12 budget is brought into balance by bringing forward savings and service cuts planned for financial year 2012/13 into 2011/12. While it is always risky making predictions – and a week is a long time in politics – I expect the Council’s coalition administration to accept the officers’ recommendation.

Jan 312011

By Cllr Martin Ford.

In a statement issued earlier today by Trump International Golf Links Scotland, Donald Trump does appear, at last, to have ruled out using compulsory purchase to force his neighbours from their homes.

For the families concerned in particular, that must be a great relief.

I am delighted for them. They have shown great courage and strength.

The families have been living with the threat to their homes for over two years. While feelings of relief and joy will be dominant now, we must not forget that the residents should never have been put in this appalling position of uncertainty by Mr Trump in the first place. What Mr Trump has done today is withdraw a threat he should never have made.

In his statement, Mr Trump claims that he has ‘no interest in compulsory purchase’ and ‘never applied for it’. That is downright untrue. Mr Trump’s lawyers wrote to Aberdeenshire Council on 4 March 2009 formally requesting the Council to exercise its powers of compulsory purchase to acquire eight plots of land on behalf of Trump International Golf Links Scotland. The eight properties were listed. Included were the homes of four families.

Aberdeenshire Council could and should have made it clear long ago that compulsory purchase was not an option it would support. To that extent, the Council is as guilty as Mr Trump of causing the affected residents unnecessary worry and stress over an extended period.

The Council’s shameful failure to stand up to Mr Trump’s bullying has caused lasting damage to its reputation.

I want to pay tribute to the well organised and effective campaign run by Tripping Up Trump in support of the Menie residents. The thousands of people who actively helped the Tripping Up Trump campaign were defending important principles.

Today’s statement from Mr Trump is effectively an admission that the campaign has worked. Thank you to everyone who took part.

Dec 312010

By Cllr Martin Ford, Aberdeenshire Council

Decisions by the Westminster and Scottish governments have left Aberdeenshire Council facing its worst budget cuts ever.

For 2011/12, Aberdeenshire Council has no choice but to make cuts in its budget totalling in excess of £30 million. The Council’s funding from the Scottish Government has been reduced and it has had to agree to freeze the Council Tax. In real terms, allowing for inflation, the Council’s Government grant has been cut by more than five per cent

In fact, Aberdeenshire Council’s position is worse than previously thought.

Unexpectedly, just before Christmas, the Scottish Government advised Aberdeenshire Council that the grant figure it had announced for the Council was wrong. Instead of a grant of £426.988 million for 2011/12, Aberdeenshire would be getting more than half a million pounds less, £426.477 million. The Council will have to cut a further £511,000 from its revenue budget for 2011/12 as a result of the Scottish Government’s revision of its grant funding figures.

There is nothing Aberdeenshire Council can do about the level of funding the Scottish Government decides it is to get, and nothing the Council can do about what will come from its other main source of income, the Council Tax (see: Council Tax freeze and many cuts decided, Aberdeen Voice, 26 November 2010).

The task for Aberdeenshire Council is to minimise the impact of the loss of income it now faces on the public services the Council

The bulk of the saving required in the 2011/12 revenue budget was decided at the full council meeting on 25 November when cuts and efficiencies totalling almost £27 million were voted through by the Council’s Liberal Democrat/Conservative administration.

I am sure many people do not yet realise how the cuts that have been decided will affect them. Standing in the middle of Newmachar the other day, by the village hall, the breadth of the impact of the cuts really came home to me.

I am appalled at what is being done to really important services – and angry because at least the worst of the cuts could so easily have been avoided

Behind me, in the hall car park, were the recycling skips. A cut of £350,000 in spending on information about and promotion of recycling was one of the administration’s budget cuts voted through on 25 November. Optimistically, the administration’s budget for 2012/13 also includes a £500,000 ‘efficiency saving’ achieved through a reduction in the amount of recyclable material going to landfill.

It seems unlikely, to say the least, that cutting virtually the entire budget dedicated to informing people about the importance of recycling will lead the following year to such a dramatic improvement in the recycling rate.

Newmachar village hall is in School Road, a lit street with, by the village hall, a pavement on one side. In the 2011/12 budget, spending on footway maintenance has been cut by £200,000 and the amount allocated to installing dropped kerbs reduced by 50 per cent. Over £100,000 has been docked from spending on testing and maintaining street lights.

Next to the village hall is New Machar School. Provision of classroom assistants in primary schools is to be significantly reduced over the next two years. Spending on classroom assistants is to be cut by 50 per cent (£1.3 million) during 2011 to 2013 and by a further £0.53 million in later years. Spending on primary visiting specialists will be reduced by £200,000 in 2011/12. School devolved budgets are to be cut.

On the opposite side of the road from the village hall is a grass verge on which is sited a dog-waste bin. The administration’s cuts voted through on 25 November include reducing the funding for dog wardens by a third in 2012/13. In 2011/12, £200,000 is to be saved by reducing grass-verge cutting. The budget for village orderlies – a much appreciated service that certainly helped keep towns and villages tidy through the summer – has been cut completely from next year.

Behind the verge opposite the village hall is the cemetery. Spending on grounds maintenance in burial grounds is to be reduced by £130,000 in 2011/12.

Beyond the cemetery is the play park. Spending on maintenance in parks and open spaces is also to be reduced by £130,000 in 2011/12.

Next to the play park is the library. A saving of £80,000 is to be made in 2011/12 by reducing the opening hours of some Aberdeenshire libraries.

Then there are the cuts that don’t show – unless you are a person who depends on the service that is being cut.

I am appalled at what is being done to really important services – and angry because at least the worst of the cuts could so easily have been avoided, had the Scottish Government allowed councils the freedom to decide on their own Council Tax. A two per cent increase in the Council Tax in Aberdeenshire, that is 44 pence per week for a Band D property, would bring in £2.4 million that could be spent on schools or social work. For the cost of a cheap bar of chocolate, cuts to classroom assistants or social care for children could have been avoided.

The Council still has to find around a further £4 million of savings to balance its budget for 2011/12. I hope the administration will work constructively with opposition councillors through the rest of the budget process to minimise the impact of these further cuts on the most crucial Council services.

Dec 182010

By Cllr Martin Ford, Aberdeenshire Council

Last week a key decider of Aberdeenshire Council’s 2011/12 revenue budget became known – the level of grant support the Council will be getting from the Scottish Government.

It is important to remember that Scottish councils depend on the Scottish Government for the vast bulk – around 80 per cent – of the money they need to meet the cost of providing public services.

An overall cut in its funding for local government next year of 2.6 per cent has been promised by the Scottish Government provided councils agree to a Council Tax freeze and other measures – otherwise the cut in grant funding for councils is to be 6.4 per cent.

Aberdeenshire Council has already decided that it will freeze the Council Tax and meet the other terms set by the Scottish Government as conditions for a smaller cut in its grant (see: Council Tax Freeze and Many Cuts Decided, Aberdeen Voice, 26 November 2010).

By enforcing a Council Tax freeze, the Scottish Government has removed from councils any real say over the total amount they have to spend.

In fact, within the overall 2.6 per cent reduction in funding for councils, Aberdeenshire Council has done relatively well. It will receive funding of £427 million from the Scottish Government towards the running costs of council services in the financial year 2011/12.
This is a cut of 1.9 per cent in cash terms – not as bad as expected and not as bad as the 2.6 per cent average reduction in funding councils are facing.

A 1.9 per cent cut in cash terms, though, is a cut of more than 5 per cent in real terms – once inflation and other increases in costs are taken into account. This is a severe cut.

Moreover, as a result of the formula used to distribute funding amongst councils, Aberdeenshire is still receiving a much lower grant per head of population than most councils do. Aberdeenshire Council receives more than 12.5 per cent less than the average amount of funding provided to councils per head of population. And unlike many councils, Aberdeenshire also has to cope with the budgetary pressures that result from having a growing population.

Aberdeenshire Council’s Liberal Democrat/Conservative administration voted through budget cuts and savings totalling almost £27 million at the November full council meeting. Efficiencies and cuts were approved right across the range of public services provided by the Council.

However, the extent of further spending reductions – beyond the £27 million of cuts and savings already voted through – required to achieve a balanced revenue budget for 2011/12 could not be worked out until the Council’s grant settlement became known. The 1.9 per cent cut in the Council’s funding from the Scottish Government means additional savings totalling around £3.5 million will now have to be found.

Council finance officers are still seeking clarification from the Scottish Government regarding some of the conditions that the Council has to comply with in order to avoid the threatened funding cut of 6.4 per cent. There is therefore still some uncertainty about the full financial implications of what the Council will have to do in order to have its funding cut by 1.9 per cent.

So while it is now clear that the Council will have to find additional savings of close to £3.5 million, the exact amount still cannot be calculated.

In total, Aberdeenshire Council will have to cut approximately £30.5 million of spending to balance its revenue budget for 2011/12.

That is going to have a serious impact on Council services and on some service users.

The Council is responsible for deciding exactly what it will cut.
However, it has been put in a position where the total saving required has been decided for it – and for that the Scottish Government must take responsibility.